Sometimes, creative vegan education means talking to hundreds of people in one day and other times, it means talking to one. Go out there and do it. And sometimes you don’t choose activism; it chooses you. That’s what happened in Chicago this summer at the Vegan Food and Drink Festival.
The shipping company delivered all our materials to St. Louis instead of Chicago. On our table, we had nothing other than our fantastic sign. It was a beautiful and breezy day so we stepped out from behind the table to make all visitors feel welcome, making up for its emptiness.
My advocacy is generally one on one, or it is via writing or cooking. I had never participated in anything on that scale – 10,000 attendees… yikes. I didn’t know what to expect.
What we got was a consistent stream of visitors, vegan and not. My approach was open, humorous, friendly and informal. I listened, shared information and addressed concerns. There is no doubt that people understand an unequivocal and clear vegan message and I respect people enough to speak the truth and let them decide for themselves what they want to do.
There were a few memorable moments. Annie was a long-time vegan and she wanted her friend Angel to hear the message from someone else. Hearing an unequivocal vegan message about veganism as a matter of social justice was a revelation for both of them. At the end, they were both beaming. Angel hugged me, said he understood and would go vegan.
The vegan son who brought his non-vegan mum and asked me to give her “my sales pitch.” He needed her to hear a clear and logical message. He needed that support certainly more than she wanted to hear it. But she listened carefully and silently, a testament to her love and respect for her son; a seed, to be sure.
The most memorable happened when I took an uber to the airport early in the morning after the festival. I decided to sit upfront with the driver, a tall and broad African-American man in his late-30s/early 40s. We got to chatting about Chicago and what I was doing there. When I told him, he said he had a long-term vegan friend whose parents were also vegan. He said, “you’re an educator, tell me why go vegan.” His friend had never discussed it with him. So I asked him how he felt when he saw animals mistreated. He thought it was horrible, he said. Then I asked him what the difference was between the animals we eat and those animals we don’t. He was silent for a bit and then replied, “nothing. We say they are different.” We talked about that. I told him how dairy milk and eggs are produced. He had no idea. He turned to me after a very long silence and said, “this is monstrous.” We talked more. He was incredibly perceptive, funny and got it. We arrived at the airport, he got out of the car, helped me with my bag and said with arms outstretched, “oh no, you don’t. Come here! I believe the biggest gift you can give someone is education. And you have changed my and my family’s life forever.” You bet I was in tears when we hugged. He emailed me several weeks ago. He is vegan.
For how to go vegan there are many helpful sites, you might want to try this one.